October 31, 2014

RAJASTHAN DIARIES - Day 1

BANGALORE to JAIPUR

Hand painted Ganesha at Hotel Sunder Palace
Earlier this month, we went on a trip to the colorful state of Rajasthan. In the 19 days we spent there, we covered most of the top tourists attractions here be it the magnificent palaces that speak of the grandeur of an bygone era or the impregnable fortresses that stand testimony to the brave Rajput men and women who always chose death before dishonor, the great Thar which has become synonymous with the western state or the dry, deciduous jungles that are inhabited by the magnificent stripped felines. The entire trip was the brain-child of Da who spent months going through Lonely Planet Guide Books and travel websites to meticulous plan the smallest of details including accommodation, the places to see, train tickets and so on.

We i.e. Mummy, Da, Bhabi and me left for Jaipur on October 1 at 10:00 am in the morning. Though the driver booked via Mantri Cabs did not turn up, the guys at Meeru arranged for an airport drop within 20 minutes. Our flight - JetLite was on time and we reached the Delhi airport at 4:00 in the afternoon after a three hour journey. As we neared the national capital, we spotted some of the hallmarks of the city from the sky including the Purana Quila, the Lotus Temple, the Commonwealth Games Stadium (CWG), the Qutub Minar Complex and my favorite - Humayun's Tomb.

Mummy and Bhabi pose for the camera

After having our lunch at McDonald's, we passed walked through the Terminal 3 of the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport to catch our connecting flight to Jaipur. Inaugurated in July 2010, the Terminal 3 is huge and with its state-of-art infrastructure, it is bound to impress any person coming here, me being no exception. Effort has been made to showcase glimpses from our rich and ancient culture to visitors; the ones that I can remember are the sculptures depicting the twelve asanas (postures) of the Surya Namaskar, the Hiranya Garbha mural and the Mudras or Hand Gestures of Buddha.

We reached our destination - the Pink City at 6:40 pm later that evening; the second journey that lasted for little over an hour was much comfortable when compared to the earlier one. This was the third time that I was visiting Jaipur and I must confess, I am totally mesmerized by it. After all, it is one of those few places in the country that despite of all the growth, has managed to hold on to its medieval heritage as evident from the massive walls around the old city. An example of this are the Chhatris that have been built at the end of flyover close to the airport; the statues of the peacocks around the cenotaphs only adds to the charm. We hired a pre-paid taxi to reach Hotel Sunder Palace where we had booked our room.

Rasleela painting at Sunder Palace (Left) & Raj Mandir Cinema (Right)

Located in the vicinity of the Hathroi Fort near the Vidhayakpuri Police Station, Hotel Sunder Palace was one of the best hotels that we stayed in during our trip. The rooms here are spacious, well maintained and like in so many hotels across Rajasthan, the ceilings and the walls are decorated with elegant hand paintings. The verandahs are full of paintings depicting scenes from Hindu Mythology (Lord Krishna being the favorite), gun metal statues and the best - Medieval Rajput arms. Then there is this big canvas of a royal procession going past Jaipur's most famous icon - the Hawa Mahal in the lobby area. I was too tired to click the pictures of the various things that are on display here. We were to come back to Jaipur a fortnight later and we had thought that we would stay in the same hotel. Thus I assumed that I would get all the time to get some good snaps of the exhibits. Unfortunately, the hotel was completely occupied when we returned back to the city for the last leg of the tour.

We wanted to go to Bappu Bazaar for some shopping in the evening. However, we were told that most shops in the city close by eight and going to the markets would be futile, we would find later that the old city is 'awake' till 9:30 pm. A rickshaw driver took us to Maharani Market - a large shop selling some local items which was a complete waste of time. It seems that the shop owners here have some sort of 'setting' with rickshaw wallas who insist on taking you there, probably because they get some commission. Next, we went to Gulab Chand Prints which is renowned for its block printed ladies wear. It is located opposite Raj Mandir cinema which is Jaipur's most famous theatre.

We returned to our rooms at 9:30 pm where we were joined by Dad; he had taken an evening flight to the Pink City via Hyderabad. We had our dinner at the Peacock Roof Top Restaurant which is located on the terrace of the Hotel Pearl Palace which was hardly 100 meters from our room and next to the Hathroi Fort. The place seems to be popular with foreign tourists. Amongst the dishes we had there were Lasooni Kebab, Lal Maas, Chicken Lababdar and Paneer Butter Masala. Though slightly over-priced, food was tasty and the staff were quite friendly. We came back to our rooms close to midnight and were off to sleep since we had to catch a train to Ajmer at 6:00 am on the following day.